Blue Jays find their closer

The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Sergio Santos from the White Sox for prospect Nestor Molina on Tuesday afternoon.

Santos is expected to take over the closer’s role for Toronto. He went 4-5 with a 3.55 ERA and 30 saves in 36 opportunities for the White Sox in 2011.

Molina became one of the Blue Jays top prospects this past season with a breakout campaign for both Class-A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire. Molina went a combined 12-3 with  a 2.21 ERA in 130 1/3 innings in the Minor Leagues.

Santos arrives in Toronto with a club-friendly contract. He is set to earn a total of $8.25 million over the next three seasons followed by three club options. Molina could earn $6-million in 2015, $8-million in 2016 and $8.75 in 2017.

Update — *8:20 p.m. 

I’ll have my own reaction to the trade in a post on Wednesday morning but in the meantime make sure you check out my piece that outlines the trade and also another article that deals with Santos’ reaction to the trade / background information about how he made the transition from shortstop to the mound.

You can also follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB. Here some leftovers from today’s coverage:

John Farrell:

 How happy are you about the new acquisition today?

“Extremely happy.  You know, we were able to get a guy that ‑‑ Alex outlined very clearly that for potentially the next six years, he’s a Toronto Blue Jay, and to get someone that’s got such strike‑out ability for that role that late in the game, an area that we came into this winter meetings as a focal point to address, we were able to do that.  We gave up a good pitcher, a guy that we really believed in, even though he’s a guy that was just pitching in Double‑A, but gave up a very good pitcher to get a quality closer.”

Do you feel like now it’ll be easier to let the rest of the bullpen fall into place in some sort of order of roles?

“Well, depending on what our bullpen ultimately looks like, the fact that we’ve got someone to build back to and work from the ninth inning back towards the middle of the game, sure, I think that stability, that known commodity is what every team strives to put in place, and we were able at that do that here today.”

What were your observations of him?  I know you didn’t see him pitch much, but from what you saw.

“You know, always have seen him quickly in the last two years.  It’s a remarkable story when you think of a position player to make that quick of a transition and to have dominating stuff as he does, power arm with a well above average slider, and you look at the strikeout rates, again, if you try to draw up a profile this is the type of stuff, you’re looking to put in the ninth inning.”

Given his relative inexperience, how close to a finished product is he?

“You know, I don’t know that any player is ever a finished product.  You’re always evolving, you’re always making adjustments to the league and to your opponents and to Father Time.  I don’t know what his ultimate product is.  I just know he’s got a very good arm with two well above average pitches, and a guy that we’re confident in is going to close out a lot of games for us.”

But he doesn’t strike you as a raw pitcher at this point?  Does he have a pretty good idea what he wants to do or do you see some evolution there?

“I’ll probably reserve comment on that until getting a chance to see him day in and day out, but there is some electric type stuff from a right‑handed closer.  Again, I think you just look at the strike out rates, and that’s one indicator that the fewer balls put in play, the better off I think we’ll all be.”

I know he would have faced those teams before, but is there an adjustment coming in facing teams he’ll face on a regular basis?

“I mean, you’ve got good lineups in every division, so to say that the lineups in the East are better than any others is probably disrespecting everybody in the American League or in Interleague play.

“The ninth inning in and of itself is a unique setting, and the fact that he saved 30 this past year gives us a lot of confidence with his experience at least in that one year and the success rate that he had.  This is a great acquisition by Alex and the rest who have been able to work this deal.”

Alex Anthopoulos:

Thoughts on the trade…

“Molina is a guy that they liked for a long time and we didn’t want to move him. Obviously he’s one of our better prospects, definitely it was a tough one.

“But at the same time we’re getting a guy that we feel has a chance to be an elite closer in the American League. He fits the profile of years of control with six years and the strikeout stuff for the lineup he’s going to face.”

How hard was it to pull the trigger…

“It’s hard, you can get guys to close games, but to find someone who has a chance to be elite and under contract for that period of time, at the end of the day we had to pay a steep price and it was not easy to do. We certainly had a split camp internally because we think very highly of Molina but where our team is right now, where our payroll is right now, all of those things made sense for us.”

Depth in the Minors help make this deal possible….

“It’s part of it but I think more than anything else, the years of control, the salaries, and where our team is currently with the core of the team that we have in place, and what our needs and alternatives are. This is someone that fits right into the timeframe of the other parts of our core and we still do have a lot of prospects but we’re not going to look to trade all of them just because we have depth in certain areas.

“It took some time to really wrap our heads around it. There were a lot of heated debates in the room about it but ultimately I just felt with everything that we have going on this makes sense for us.”

On the budget…

“I have parameters to work with, with respect to the payroll and so on. This gives me flexibility to do some other things and that was definitely a very appealing part of this and the years of control were very appealing. We’re not talking about a Molina unless we’re getting a lot of years of control.”

Does this signify that you’re ready to win now…

“We’re definitely trying to move the team forward, there’s no question. We have some players in the prime of their careers, we have some players that we think are only going to improve. So there’s no question we’re trying to win and get better each year but we’re not going to take shortcuts because we do want to win a team that has a chance to win over a long period of time. That’s why the years of control are so important.”

Sergio Santos:

Were you surprised by the deal…

“A little bit. It was definitely a shock at first, but the writing was on the wall as far as Chicago’s stance, kind of what they were going to do, I didn’t think I was going to be part of those plans, but here I am and I’m excited to be with a new team, and going in the direction Toronto’s going in.”

Best pitch…

“I think everything is off my fastball. In order for me to have an effective slider, I have to be locating my fastball in and out consistently to put that in hitters’ minds. I do have a good changeup, I would need to be more consistent with it, that’s something I’m going to really work on this year to take my game to the next level.”

On the man in white… what’s the real story…

“I have no idea. Hopefully whoever it is, if he’s there, if he’s not there, if he’s a ghost, he’s a help in helping guys put up monster numbers and they score some runs for us and we can win some games.”

More on being surprised…

“It’s a little weird, but exciting at the same time. The hard part is you sign an extension and like where you are at. I’m thinking that hopefully I can be here for the next six years of the contract, or at least the next three. But this kind of happens in the business side of it. So you move on from there and see what happens.”

What he learned from first year of closing…

“Just erase your mind and clear your mind after a bad day and even after a good day. It’s a good thing to pull out of the experience.”

Disappointed or excited…

“A little bit of both. It’s tough leaving a city and team you love and carried about to go to something that’s different. I know Toronto a little bit, we’ll see how it goes.”

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